By the end of the year, Army suicides will have reached a record high. One hundred forty active duty soldiers have already committed suicide this year; seventy-one others took their own lives after being taken off active duty.
It doesn’t matter what branch of the military someone chooses when deciding to fight for our country. Experts say overcoming the stigma associated with talking about the experience is a hurdle they haven’t figured out how to overcome.
“I was seen as crazy because I needed to talk to somebody,” said Douglas Owen.
Owen is a licensed professional counselor and Navy veteran. During his military service, Owen spoke to a professional about his experience. “And to come back now and say I need to talk to somebody, I don’t think the stigma has gone away.”
Earlier this month, a soldier killed 13 people at Fort Hood. The following day, one Marine killed another at Camp Lejeune.
Wednesday, the Army announced suicide numbers would set a new record for the fifth consecutive year.
“Coming back into society, dealing with issues their family may have, or that they may have personally or financially, to make that tough readjustment it can be. Coming from a combat zone or being in a theater were combat is occurring to coming back home,” said Mike McIntyre.
Owen says military training teaches troops to hide their emotions. Ultimately military men and women are worried about criticism for seeking help. “That’s a function of a military person. Is to say ‘I can push through this agony, push through this pain and suffering’. But then when does anybody ever say ‘okay that pain that you pushed down the other day, let’s get that out’? Nobody does that.”
Congressman Mike McIntyre says he wants to change that before President Obama signs the defense bill. “To make sure that every returning veteran coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan has access to get any assistance they may need for readjustment counseling.”
Owen hopes returning military will take advantage of the services. “For me, the little bit of stigma I had to deal with, it was worth it.”
McIntyre recently announced plans for a new veterans clinic in Wilmington. 77,000 veterans live in southeastern North Carolina.